Permanent migrants in Australia methodology

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Reference period

Permanent migrants

This release provides information on the social and economic characteristics of permanent migrants in Australia who arrived between 1 January 2000 and 10 August 2021. In this release, this population is referred to as permanent migrants.

Data collection

Data sources

The statistics in this release were compiled from the 2021 Australian Migrants and Census Integrated Dataset (ACMID). ACMID contains data on people who were granted a permanent Skilled, Family, Humanitarian or Other Permanent visa and arrived in Australia between 1 January 2000 and 10 August 2021. This dataset links data from the 2021 Census of Population and Housing (Census) with the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs) Settlement Database.

The Settlement Database contains information about people in Australia who were granted permanent visas. It brings together information from various sources and is a repository of information on permanent and certain temporary visa holders who have arrived in Australia. For more information see Settlement reports on the Home Affairs website.

The ABS acknowledges the continuing support from Home Affairs for the ACMID project. The provision of data as well as ongoing assistance provided by the agency is essential to enable this work to be undertaken.

For information about the 2021 Census and collection methodology please refer to the information provided on the ABS website ( in Census methodology.


ACMID represents people on the Settlement Database who meet all the following:

  • were granted a permanent Skilled, Family, Humanitarian or Other permanent visa
  • had an arrival date in Australia between 1 January 2000 and 10 August 2021
  • were in Australia on 10 August 2021 (Census Night)
  • were identified as not-deceased on the Settlement Database
  • were not an overseas visitor to Australia.

Arrival date is based on information from the Settlement Database and refers to the date of arrival to Australia by a permanent migrant. For:

  • permanent visas granted to people outside Australia (offshore) – the arrival date refers to the first date of arrival after the grant of the permanent visa
  • permanent visas granted to people in Australia (onshore) – the arrival date refers to the latest date of arrival prior to the grant of that visa.

Processing the data

Data integration

Statistical data integration involves combining information from different data sources such as administrative, survey and/or census to provide new datasets for statistical and research purposes.

Data linking is a key part of statistical data integration and involves combining records from different datasets using shared data items. Data linkage is performed on unit records that represent individual persons.

The ABS enforces a robust framework of protections for its data linking projects that work together to protect privacy, strengthen the security of data, and meet legislative requirements. For more information, see the Privacy section.

Linkage between the Settlement Database and the 2021 Census

The 2021 Settlement Database records were linked to the 2021 Census data using a deterministic linkage method. Deterministic data linkage, also known as rule-based linkage, involves assigning record pairs across two datasets that match exactly or closely on common data items.

Linkage results

At the completion of the linkage process 2,641,304 (87.8%) out of 3,008,180 records from the Settlement Database were linked to the 2021 Census data.


The estimates in this release have been calibrated to the Settlement Database to help account for unlinked records. This is accomplished by assigning a weight to each linked record in ACMID to represent the units that did not link. This calibration helps the estimates be more representative of all the migrants on the Settlement Database. The calibration methodology in 2021 is broadly consistent with the 2016 method and accounts for characteristics such as age, sex, visa information and year of arrival.


The ABS respects individual’s rights to privacy and is committed to keeping information safe and secure. The ABS is subject to legislation protecting the confidentiality of information, including the Census and Statistics Act 1905 which makes it a criminal offence to breach secrecy provisions.

For more information see the 2021 Census Privacy Statement, and Keeping integrated data safe.


In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, data are subject to a confidentiality process before release. This is undertaken to avoid releasing information that may allow the identification of individuals, families, households, dwellings, or businesses.

One technique used to guard against identification of confidential information is the random adjustments to cells with very small values. In these cases, data may not sum to totals but the size of the difference between summed cells and the relevant total will generally be small.

For more information see Introduced random error / perturbation.

Data limitations


The Settlement Database is generally not adjusted to reflect permanent migrants who have died. Although there is some information on the Settlement Database regarding deaths, and this has been used to remove a small number of records from ACMID, it is considered an underestimate and it is likely that the estimates include deceased persons.


Errors introduced by duplicate records (where one person is represented by multiple unit records on the Settlement Database) are mitigated by the duplicate removal process undertaken prior to linkage.

Permanent migrants away on Census Night

Traveller information from Home Affairs was used to determine whether permanent migrants on the Settlement Database were outside of Australia on Census Night and if so, their records were excluded from ACMID. However, there may be people away on Census Night who could not be matched to traveller information, and they are still included in ACMID estimates.

Unlinked records and linkage errors

While the linkage between the Settlement Database and the 2021 Census is of high quality, some records could not be linked, and there is also a small chance of linkage error (false links).

False links are influenced by the similarity of linking information in records that represent different individuals. This may be due to random chance but is primarily driven by low-quality information in linking data items: the less information available to discriminate two individuals, the more likely they will match by chance. The calibration process does not mitigate against the error.

The number of unlinked records was relatively small and is largely accounted for in the calibration process. For more information see Calibration section in Processing the data.

COVID-19 pandemic

The Census is the most comprehensive snapshot of Australia and tells us about the economic, social, and cultural make-up of the country. The 2021 Census was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which required much of the Australian population to isolate at home under health directives. This was a unique time for Australia and the 2021 Census data used in ACMID looks to understand outcomes of permanent migrants at this snapshot in time. For more information on the collection of 2021 Census data during the pandemic, please see COVID-19 and the Census.

Quality of Census data

Information about the data quality of the Census is available on the ABS website in Understanding data quality.

Data concepts

Year of arrival

This release refers to arrival data sourced from both the Census and Settlement Database. Each of these data sources use a different definition of arrival:

  • Census: the year of arrival question on the Census asks overseas-born people to report the year they first arrived in Australia with the intention of staying for at least one year. See Year of arrival in Australia (YARP).
  • Settlement Database: arrival date refers to the date of arrival to Australia by a permanent migrant. For permanent visas granted to people outside Australia, the arrival date refers to the first date of arrival after the grant of the permanent visa. For permanent visas granted to people in Australia, the arrival date refers to the latest date of arrival prior to the grant of that visa.

Estimates in this release are produced using the 2021 Census year of arrival data item, whereas the Settlement Database arrival data item is used to scope the ACMID. For more information see Data collection.

This Census year of arrival may have occurred many years before their arrival date reported in the Settlement Database. For example, some permanent migrants may have reported on the Census that their year of arrival was 'Prior to 2000', even though their Settlement Database arrival date was between 1 January 2000 and 10 August 2021. In cases where the Census year of arrival precedes that of the Settlement Database, it is likely that the person was a temporary visa holder before attaining their permanent visa.

Permanent migrants born in Australia

In most cases, if a permanent migrant’s country of birth is recorded as ‘Australia,’ it indicates that the individual was born in Australia to parents who were temporary visa holders.

Since 1987, Australian citizenship is gained when a child has either one citizen parent, a permanent resident parent or a parent that has been in Australia for ten consecutive years since their birth. Where a child is born to parents holding temporary visas, that child is granted the same visa as the parents and added to any permanent visa application at the request of the parent. If that permanent visa is granted, the child is granted the same type of permanent visa, is deemed a dependent and considered a permanent ‘migrant’ as part of the family.

Visa transitions

The 2021 ACMID release contains new data items on the visa history of permanent migrants. This allows us to understand any visas (for example a temporary visa) a permanent migrant may have held prior to their current permanent visa. This new information provides insights as to how a permanent migrant may have moved (or transitioned) from one temporary visa to another before becoming a permanent migrant. This release contains information on:

  • the first temporary visa held by a permanent visa holder
  • time taken from first temporary visa to first permanent visa.

Given visa histories can be complex, rules were applied when compiling visa transition statistics. These rules aimed to focus on visa transitions that were the most relevant in a person’s pathway towards a permanent visa. The following rules applied when selecting a person’s first temporary visa.

  • First temporary visa excludes bridging and visitor visas. For example, consider a person who started on a visitor visa, moved to a bridging visa, then to a temporary student visa, and subsequently to a permanent Skilled visa. When reporting the first temporary visa, the visitor and bridging visas would be excluded, so the permanent migrant would be reported as having a temporary student visa as their first temporary visa.
  • Where a person has not held a valid temporary visa for 12 months or longer, the visas before this break are excluded. For example, consider a person who was in Australia on a temporary student visa from 2005 to 2009 before leaving Australia. The person didn’t hold a valid visa until they returned to Australia in 2016 on a temporary skilled visa, before being granted a permanent Skilled visa. In this case, the first temporary visa reported will be their temporary skilled visa, because there was more than a 12-month break in their visa history between the temporary student visa and the temporary skilled visa.

Permanent visa and first permanent visa

Most statistics in this release are reported by the latest permanent visa, obtained from the Settlement Database. The exception to this is ‘time taken from first temporary visa to first permanent visa.’ In this case, visa history data from Home Affairs is used to determine a person’s first permanent visa. This first permanent visa is used for this data item to provide a more realistic and accurate measure of the time taken to obtain a permanent visa.

Comparability of data

Caution should be used when comparing estimates from 2021 ACMID to previous releases of the dataset (2011 and 2016). This is because all three datasets contain permanent migrants who arrived in Australia from 1 January 2000, meaning earlier data sets will have a higher proportion of newly arrived migrants. For example, 2011 ACMID will only contain migrants who arrived in Australia in the previous 11 years (since 1 January 2000). However, the 2021 ACMID will contain permanent migrants who arrived in previous 21 years. This means 2011 ACMID will have a higher proportion of recently arrived migrants than 2021, and this may affect comparison of some of their outcomes (e.g., Australian citizenship, employment).

Estimates from the 2021 ACMID will differ from the estimates produced from the Settlement Database and from other ABS collections. For example, the Census includes data for all people in Australia on Census Night, whereas ACMID only includes data for permanent visa holders on the Settlement Database who arrived from 1 January 2000. The Census can also be used to look at a range of cultural diversity characteristics, but unlike ACMID, it does not contain visa information.

Estimates from ACMID will also differ from Census and visa data obtained from the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) product. This is because: 

  • The two products use a different linkage methodology. Specifically, ACMID directly links records from the Settlement Database to Census, while MADIP links all datasets to the person linkage spine. See MADIP for more information on MADIP linkage.  
  • ACMID, unlike MADIP, is calibrated to the Settlement Database.


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